Readers may recall that Conservative MP’s were issued with a reading list of books, validated by the Leader, which we were supposed to absorb over the Summer Recess.
This took me back to my University days, when optimistic lecturers would give me some improving literature to read on the beach - as they assumed - or, as turned out to be the case, after picking hops in Kent.
I have treated the current list with the same circumspection as the earlier one which contained Sir Roy Harrod’s The Life of John Maynard Keynes; Economics by Paul Samuelson, and Language Truth and Logic by A J Ayer – which the library is still waiting for me to return.
Before setting off on holiday, another book arrived in the post – a review copy of the autobiography of my predecessor as MP for North West Hants, Sir David Mitchell. (Unlike the American relay team, he passed on the baton to me in 1997 without mishap, and is getting his breath back while I am still cantering round the course).
Politics and alcohol can be dangerous bedfellows, but not in Sir David’s case. He combined a long and successful career in politics withy an equally successful and prosperous career in the wine trade.
He tells the story of introducing himself at one of his wine-tastings by saying he was a wine-merchant who moon-lighted as an MP. During the buffet between the tasting of the red and the tasting of the white, he was accosted by one of his constituents. He prefaced the second half of his talk by saying he was an MP, who moon-lighted as a wine-merchant. (I can pinch one of his jokes for my article, as he has pinched one of mine for his book.)
Called House to House, it is a well-researched and eminently readable book, with many references to his constituency. Put it on your Christmas list. It brought home to me how much politics has changed in his life-time. When he first stood for Parliament here, David held 58 public meetings. At the last election, I held 2. And when did a Minister last resign to spend more time with the family business?
With more and more MP’s being full-time, the book shows the advantages of an MP having one foot in the commercial world as well as a foot in the Chamber. David helped to shape party and Government policy towards small businesses – would he have done so as effectively had he not been joint Managing Director and Chairman of El Vinos?
His reputation lives on in North West Hants; not every letter that I send to constituents contains what they want to hear. Some write back, threatening to report me to David Cameron, the Prime Minister and sometimes the Queen. I had one recently saying they would now take up the matter with Sir David.